I’ve been mulling over the recommendations of the Columbia River Crossing Independent Review Panel, and the reactions to the report in the community, thinking about how this thing is going to move forward. It seems to me that there are two likely outcomes:
1) Collapse of the project, and a restart at some point in the future
2) A 10-lane bridge, initially striped for 8 lanes
While the Oregonian continues to argue for bigger, I don’t think that’s likely – if only because of the realities of finance, and because at least some local leaders haven’t completely forgotten the Climate Action Plan and the idea that even with many more people, we’re going to have to drive fewer miles (each and in total).
But I also think that short of collapse of the current project, a more climate-sensible approach like a supplemental bridge (or bridges) is unlikely.
So what would it take to get to the ‘possible’ project to really happen? I see several hurdles:
1) Generate agreement on who’s in charge. My belief is that unless the DOT’s give real control over ongoing performance of the bridge to local officials in the form of some kind of Performance Management Council, this project is over. I’m dubious however that this is going to happen, at least before Oregon has a new Governor. (Note that this is different from who manages construction.)
2) The project team has to get real about the design and the costs. They have a budget estimate that relates to a different design than the one they’re promoting, and the new design is untested.
3) Vancouver has to sign off on Light Rail and Tolls. This will take the form of November’s ballot on transit operating funds for Light Rail. Don’t kid yourself that the campaign will not in large part be about tolls.
4) The Legislatures in both states are going to have to come up with several hundred million dollars each, and given the current economic climate, that may be the hardest of all the hurdles. Watch the 2011 sessions carefully for the fireworks.
Should we start a pool on the outcomes? Anyone care to design a CRC ‘bracket’? Are there more hoops I haven’t identified? (I didn’t forget about Federal funding, but I’m assuming that if the three above things happen, that will follow.)